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生命中的故事,瞬間停格
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”The World According to Garp”之血腥、荒謬、及溫柔悲憫


剛開始唸John Irving”The World According to Garp”時,一直問自己怎麼會挑這本書?許多情節不僅匪夷所思,而且極其血腥,還處處有性器官的描述,讓我很不習慣。[因此這篇我得用比較 raw的語言來描述書裡的內容,不習慣PG-rated的小城忽然變R級的讀者,這篇請跳過別讀。]幾次想放下不唸了,但是John Irving說故事的功力太強,儘管許多情節難以想像,還是吸引著我繼續唸下去。
 
這本書寫於1978年,是女性主義(feminism)萌芽的年代,此書也涉獵了這些議題。Garp的母親Jenny Fields出生於富商之家,她不願與男人有性關係,但又想要孩子,作為護士的她照顧腦部受傷而智商逐漸走回嬰兒之路的士兵,利用此機會懷了Garp,(這段過程雖然怪異但十分有趣。)照他父親病床前貼的名字(Technical Sergeant Garp)取名為T. S. Garp。這個不比平常的起頭,也開啟了本書各種出人意表的故事。
 
Jenny Fields後來寫了一本自傳,名為”Sexual Suspect”,她書裡的第一句是這樣的:”In this dirty-minded world, you are either somebody’s wife or somebody’s whore ― or fast on your way to becoming one or the other.” 開場如此鏗鏘有力的書,讓許多女人視Jenny Fields為領導。書中描寫一位十一歲的女孩Ellen Jamesrape之後舌頭被切掉,但是那兩個強暴她的男人忘了她還能寫,還是被抓到。後來出現一個叫做Ellen Jamesians的組織,參加的女人為了抗議Ellen James的遭遇都自切舌頭(天啊!)以表抗議。這些女人因為不能說話,所以都帶著筆記本,和準備好的卡片,上面寫著 Hello, I am xxx. I’m an Ellen Jamesian. Do you know what an Ellen Jamesian is?"這種偏激到幾乎荒誕的行為,在書中屢見不鮮。
 
Garp長大後開始寫作,書中的幾篇Garp寫的篇章不比書本身的故事失色,尤其他和母親高中畢業後去維也納寫的第一個短篇小說,有無窮的想像力,讓讀者也能隨之遨遊書中的世界。
 
Garp與從小認識的Helen結婚後,偶爾偷腥;Irving描述全日在家試圖寫作並兼家管的Garp,與在大學文學系當教授的太太兩人相愛但日常生活卻總有從不間斷的小小衝突,寫的自然而傳神。在”It Happens to Helen”這章,來修Helen課的研究生Michael Milton修這門課的動機的問卷上寫著:”Because, from the first time I saw you, I wanted to be your lover.” 後來Helen果然與他在一起,那時她和Garp的大兒子Duncan十歲,小兒子Walt五歲。下一章”Walt Catches Cold”著墨於Garp對小兒子感冒的焦慮,也寫出他對小孩純潔味道的依戀。某天他發現HelenMichael Milton的婚外情,憤怒地帶著兩個兒子在下雨的寒夜出去看電影,命令Helen趁他們不在家時用電話與Michael絕交,不准出門,也不可以讓Michael進家門。
 
這之後發生的事,是全書最震撼血腥但又最溫柔深遠的一段。
 
Helen打電話給Michael後,他不顧一切開車來她家,Helen不願他進家裡,出外擋住他的車門,他改為要求她進車,她不得已進入,但把他的車鑰匙搶過來,才不會被他帶走。在車中她想分手時,Michael堅持不肯放棄,最後他拉下褲檔的拉鍊,冷笑地說, 妳若是肯做,結束後我就離開,不再糾纏。還諷刺地說:平常我開車時你不是都說想做,只是怕開車進行時危險,現在我的車哪裡也去不了,不是最好的時機嗎?” Helen冷靜地想了想,這也是唯一能打發掉他的方法了。然後書中這麼寫著:
 
She was thinking of her family, and she did not notice that the sleet was now nearly as hard as hail; it rattled off the big Buick like the tapping of countless hammers, driving little nails. … And she did not hear the telephone, ringing in her warm house. There was too much weather, and other interference, between her house and where she lay.” 
 
唸到這裡,開始冒冷汗,心想完了!果然看電影時Garp忍不住打電話回家,沒人接聽後,憤怒的他也不等電影結束,就拉著兩個孩子上車,在冰冷的雨中開車回家。
 
快到家前是個下坡,然後上坡到車庫。Garp平常開到坡下方就喜歡熄火關燈,放到空檔的車隨著下坡的momentum 往上滑進車庫裡。平常他都是自己開車時才如此享受雲霄飛車般的快感,總是被Helen譴責太危險。這次因為在氣頭上,雖然車中有孩子他也是照做。只有讀者知道車庫前停著一輛車,車裡他的太太正做著跟愛人break-up的事。
 
Irving是如此寫的:
 
Garp hit the bottom of his driveway at about forty miles per hour. He came off the downhill road in the short uphill curve. He held the car in gear until he felt what grip he had of the road it was good enough, and he popped the sharp stick shift into neutral—a second before he killed the engine and flicked out the headlights. They coasted up, into the black rain. It was like that moment when you feel an airplane lift off the runway; the children both cried out in excitement….
 
(漆黑的車中,孩子和父親有些害怕但又興奮的對話在此省略)
 
“It’s like being underwater!” cried Duncan; he held his breath.
“It’s like a dream!” said Walt; he reached for his brother’s hand.
 
這章就如此結束,我不自覺地將書頁闔起,不敢往下看,自己的呼吸似乎也在那個烏黑冰冷的雨夜裡凍結住了。
 
[若想自己看書而不願知道這段情節的人,到此最好打住別再往下唸了。]
 
下一章開始寫著Garp一家搬入了他母親海邊的豪宅,當護士的Jenny Fields忙碌地照顧受傷的一家人。大兒子Duncan因為撞車的衝擊飛到stick shift,因為之前把手掉了都沒修,眼球被撞出,從此只剩一隻眼睛;撞車時Helen的頭正伏在方向盤下,還好她的脖子很強壯,沒有撞斷,但是撞擊時她嘴巴合起的力道太大,斷了兩顆牙齒,她的嘴巴不但血腥,而且裡面有東西,她以為是咬斷了自己的舌頭,直到吐出來才發現原來是Michael
 
我聽到自己慘叫一聲,把書甩到一邊,實在看不下去了。但是因為關心這家人,幾分鐘後還是忍不住拿起書,繼續讀那個雨夜發生的慘事。
 
這段篇章遲遲不提Walt,只是寫著Jenny如何照顧這一家三口。我心急想知道Walt怎麼了,雖然心中隱隱了然卻又不肯相信。Garp的下顎受重傷,不能講話,只能用寫的。他一張一張紙條的寫,請媽媽拿去給DuncanHelen
 
Helen的紙條上他寫著:
“I don’t blame you.”
Later he wrote another one.
“I don’t blame myself either.”
 
一家三口分睡在三個房間,Helen不知如何面對Garp.
 
終於有天晚上,Helen來到了Garp的房間。
 
“She was not surprised to find him lying awake, because he was listening to what she heard too. It was why she couldn’t sleep.”
 
Jenny的豪宅收留了許多需要幫助的女人,這天晚上來了一位新客人,HelenGarp聽到的是她放水洗澡的聲音。原來Walt很愛泡澡,他尤其喜歡將頭慢慢浸到水中,直到耳朵也淹到水下方,然後傾聽手指在澡缸上輕敲的聲音。他的父母只要一陣子沒聽到他的聲音就會呼喚他的名字,怕他睡著了滑到水底。偏偏Walt的耳朵浸在水裡,往往聽不到父母的呼喊而沒回話,然後浴室門一開,他看到兩張焦急的臉在上方出現。
 
“Just answer, for God’s sake, Walt.” Garp would tell him, “When we call you, just answer us.”
“I didn’t hear you.” Walt said.
“Then keep your head out of water.” Helen said. 
“But how can I wash my hair?” Walt asked. 
“That’s a lousy way to wash your hair, Walt.” Garp said. “Call me. I’ll wash your hair.”
“OK,” said Walt. And when they left him alone, he’d put his head underwater again and listened to the world that way. 
 
夫妻倆人躺在窄小的單人床上,聆聽浴室傳來的輕哼聲。Helen說:「我以為是小孩的聲音。」Garp說:「我知道。」Helen說:「他總喜歡自言自語。」Garp:「我知道。」
 
我當然知道那個「他」是誰,隱隱覺得Irving終於要寫到重點了。
 
然後夫婦不約而同地互相道歉:
 
“I am so sorry,” Garp said; he hugged her.
“No, I am so sorry,” she said.
“No, I am so sorry,” said Garp.
I am,” Helen said.
I am,” he said.
 
聽到水聲不約而同地想到小兒子,往事像海潮般湧回時,夫妻終於互相道出心中的話。Irving筆鋒一轉,寫回撞車時Walt發生了什麼事。這本書裡他寫了好幾次rape,都是鉅細靡遺地將每個步驟寫的一清二楚,一幅血腥的畫面就呈現眼前。但是寫到孩子的逝去,卻是含蓄婉轉,像是不忍觸到心中傷疤般地,只讓讀的人心中更沉痛。
 
後來他是這樣寫一家三口的懷念:
 
“I can still see him,” Helen whispered, later.
“All the time,” Garp said. “I know.”
“I just shut my eyes,” said Helen.
“Right,” Garp said. “I know.”
But Duncan said it best. Duncan said that sometimes it was as if his missing right eye was not entirely gone. “It’s like I can still see out of it, sometimes,” Duncan said. “But it’s like memory, it’s not real—what I see.”
“Maybe it’s become the eye you see your dreams with,” Garp told him.
“Sort of,” Duncan said. “But it seems so real.”
“It’s your imaginary eye,” Garp said. “That can be very real.”
“It’s the eye I can still see Walt with,” Duncan said. “You know?”
“I know,” Garp said.
 
”Anna Karenina”讀書心得中提過,離家出走的Anna回家看兒子的悲傷, 那時我特別感慨婚外情帶來的困境;這次Irving編的故事卻令我更低迴不已。
 
這場車禍,是Helen的錯,也是Garp的錯。但是反過來說,也不能怪誰,然而全家人都付出代價, 包括Duncan的眼睛,還有Walt的生命,連Michael Milton也沒有倖免。之前Garp寫紙條表示不怪Helen,但也不承認是自己的錯;後來夫婦在床上握著手,又情不自禁地表明是自己的錯,正點出這份無奈。Helen為此辭去大學教職:In her later life, Helen would spare herself considerable unhappiness by refusing to feel guilty; in her later life, the whole business with Michael Milton would more often make her angry than it would make her sad—because she was strong enough to believe she was a good woman, which she was, who’d been made to suffer disproportionally for a trivial indiscretion.”
 
Helen堅強,但這件事帶來的沉重負擔卻從此壓在Garp心上,衍生出更精采的後半段情節。
 
但是在我來說,整本書都沒有比這兩章對我的衝擊要深。我唸到這兩章時,幾年前以柔在兒童加護病房的驚恐記憶又回到腦裡。許多讀者寫信給Irving説:”I lost one, too.” Irving如此回答:
 
“I confessed to them that I hadn’t lost any children. I am just a father with a good imagination. In my imagination, I lose my children every day.”
 
闔上最後的書頁,今年也要過完了。剛剛翻回去年十二月的最後一篇網誌,赫然發現也是寫Irving書(The Cider House Rules)的讀後心得,真是巧合。那今年就用這篇來送走2010年吧!
 
PS, 其實這本書的人物和故事範圍廣泛,Garp一家人只是很小的一部份,只因為這兩章觸動了我心中柔軟的部份,所以這篇讀書心得著重在這部份。想知道完整故事的人,就得自己去唸囉。

 

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